Tue | Jun 18, 2019

Benyamin Cooke | Down to the last drop – water scarcity

Published:Friday | May 24, 2019 | 12:26 AM
How can we truly advocate for a healthy population and for sustainable agriculture without being able to provide water to the citizens.

As citizens, we need to hold our institutions and organisations that are set up to govern our welfare accountable. For too long we have suffered and our resilience put on display; a change must come, and now. Many of our citizens who are not able to access water, this scarce commodity are taxpayers.

The questions I am forced to ask include: What has been the return on taxpayers’ investment to the country’s coffers? As a taxpayer, what benefit has been gained? There exists a genuine cause for concern which must be addressed by the various stakeholders tasked with providing water to the Jamaica people.

There is a difference between having no water and water shortage. For communities that have water, we must vigorously educate the population on water treatment, conservation and water storage, given the reduction in rainfall and our limited dams. Currently, we are encountering a water deficit islandwide as a result of the below-normal rainfall since 2018. The trajectory shows that we will be experiencing less-than-normal rainfall heading into the summer period, and there is a serious threat of drought.

How can we truly advocate for a healthy population and for sustainable agriculture without being able to provide water to the citizens. Currently, there exists a disparity, as it relates to access to basic amenities, between residents of rural parishes and those in the urban areas. To go further, in rural areas, eight out of every 10 persons are existing without access to water. These disenfranchised persons are expected to cope as they provide for their families and work assiduously to cause their island home, Jamaica, to recognise its 2030 vision.

Water, sanitation and hygiene are included in the sustainable development goals that plays a critical role to public health. In 2010, water and sanitation were recognised by the United Nations General as human rights. We must take action, and mere talk must not be allowed to continue. The truth is, there exists a ripple effect – without water, there will be poor sanitation. The result of which leads to an increase in diseases, such as cholera, as water resources become contaminated.

If water is life, we need to fight assiduously for our freedom and ensure that our well-being is protected and our human right is not violated. We cannot continue with this uncertainty and wanton disregard for our existence. The government needs to implement policies that will ensure that every household has access to potable water. Using solar-powered water pumps along with other emerging technologies, we can improve islandwide water distribution.

THE WAY FORWARD

Having due regard to agricultural production, population growth, urban development, climate change and sustainability, I am recommending that we explore a number of solutions.

- First, we must take steps to educate the population on water consumption, pollution, conservation and recycling of wastewater as self-sufficient practices. Included in the education package ought to be the drive to educate persons about reforestation and the benefits to rainfall. In collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Education can use our youth to actively participate in tree planting on a continuous basis throughout the year, as opposed to what currently happens on National Tree Planting Day.

- Second, we must draft legislation on water harvesting and water catchment for domestic and other purposes. This should especially be used for housing and other major developments.

- Third, many countries have been utilising desalination as a solution to water scarcity and we must research and explore this as a viable option.

- Fourth, we should bolster our agricultural irrigation programmes by implementing retentions ponds and groundwater wells.

- Fifth, using research, we must strategically establish dams in locations to bolster harvesting and distribution. Additionally, cisterns can be utilised for a multiplicity of benefits, including aiding our firefighting efforts.

- Sixth and final, use a collaborative interagency approach, spearheaded by the Scientific Research Council, to explore the use of atmospheric water generation.

Access to water is one of the most threatened rights in Jamaica; let us take steps to tackle that issue, starting today.

 

Benyamin Cooke is a youth advocate. Email feedback to benyaminsc@icloud.com and columns@gleanerjm.com.